ExxonMobil: Plug-in Electric Cars Will Be 10 Percent of Market by 2040

By · March 15, 2013

ExxonMobil Efficiency Graphs

ExxonMobil sees plug-in cars as a very slim part of the global fleet in 2040, with improved internal combustion playing the main role for efficiency gains. (Image: ExxonMobil)

You wouldn't expect the world’s largest oil company to be a big believer in electric cars. But it’s fascinating nonetheless to see ExxonMobil’s predictions about EVs, plug-in hybrids and other efficient cars. In its “The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040,” (PDF) released in December 2012, the company pegs electric cars and plug-in hybrids to make up 10 percent of new car sales in 2040. That will mean that about 5 percent of the total global fleet will be vehicles that plug in, according to ExxonMobil.

That’s a rosier picture than I would have expected from the oil giant. In 2009, Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s chief executive and the auto industry’s most vocal advocate for electric cars, had predicted that EVs (not including plug-in hybrids) would reach 10 percent of global sales by 2020. Ghosn has softened his stance after Nissan LEAF sales did not reach expected levels. So, all things considered, the oil company’s forecast of 10 percent by 2040, while sober and relatively pessimistic, shows that ExxonMobil sees the technology as real and growing.

ExxonMobil expects the global personal vehicle fleet to double from more than 800 million today, to more than 1.6 billion by 2040. The company sees conventional hybrids as the big winner, with “full hybrid vehicles” making up about 40 percent of the fleet in 2040, or more than 50 percent of new car sales in 2040.

According to ExxonMobil, the biggest drawbacks with plug-in cars are cost and range.

“In order to make a significant impact in the marketplace, alternatives like plug-in hybrids or electric cars will need to make substantial progress to overcome hurdles, including a $10,000 to $15,000 higher upfront cost plus range and functional limitations for drivers.”

The premium of $10,000 to $15,000 is exaggerated to make a point, and is not reflective of the real-world purchase price of today’s plug-in vehicles. But it’s less bizarre than using weight as the metric to compare the energy content (and resulting mileage) of oil versus batteries.

“The higher energy density of oil products is such that 100 pounds of gasoline can enable a car to travel 350 miles, compared to a 100-pound battery that will power a car for only about 15 miles and can take hours to recharge.”

EV forecasts, at best, are educated guesses based on any number of assumptions (and biases). In addition, they are subject to change, when inevitably, they don't conform to what's expected—and real sales numbers replace the market figures that companies offering forecasts would like to see.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
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  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
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  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
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